Introduction
Hindustani Classical Music

Section 2 - Pentatonic Ragas

As promised, this and the following two sections will introduce a few different kinds of ragas. I thought you might find it interesting to learn something about the prescribed mood (rasa ) or emotional content ( bhaava) of a raga before listening to it, and have accordingly provided a short description of each raga. My descriptions are mainly based on the mood traditionally assigned to the raga but I also go by my personal understanding and experience of it.

Let's start with pentatonic ragas. It is very easy to come up with pleasant melodies if you're only using five notes out of 12 in an octave. There are many pentatonic ragas. I'll give you a few examples.

Raag Bhupali
Raag Bhupali uses a scale that has great appeal not just in Indian music, but universally, including in Western and East Asian music. In fact, in Hindustani classical music, Bhupali shares this scale with another raga - Raag Deskar. The two ragas are quite close, naturally, but differ in that Bhupali emphasizes the lower notes and has a more pensive, meditative mood, while Deskar is playful and vivacious, focusing on the upper register. Raag Bhupali is sung in the evening hours, after sundown.

Scale: Bhupali
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Bhupali
(Ascent: S R G P D S' /Descent: S' D P G R S)


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Bhupali



Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Bhupali


Raag Malkauns
Raag Malkauns has a majestic and solemn mood. It is best sung in the lower pitch ranges at an extremely contemplative, slow pace in the small hours of the morning, just after midnight.

Scale: Malkauns
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Malkauns
(Ascent: 'n S g m d n S' /Descent: S' n d m g m g S)


Ustad Shahed Parvez on the sitar
Raag Malkauns (cropped)


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Malkauns


Raag Durga
Raag Durga has the qualities of brightness, innocence and purity. It always reminds me of the hills. The time traditionally prescribed for this raga is late evening to midnight, but I think this is one raga that lends itself beautifully to any time of day and to both slow and lively tempos.

Scale: Durga
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Durga
(Ascent: S R m P D S' /Descent: S' D P m R S)


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Durga


Sushree Anuradha Kuber
Raag Durga


Raag Shivranjani
Shivaranjani is relatively new to the Hindustani tradition, being originally a Carnatic (or South Indian classical) raga, and its status remains somewhat low among the classical ragas. It is treated more as a semi-classical or light raga. It is sung from late evening to midnight and has a plaintive, hauntingly pretty melodic profile.

Scale: Shivranjani
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Shivaranjini
(Ascent: S R g P D S' /Descent: S' D P g R S)


Prasad Bhandarkar
Raag Shivranjani


Ravi Shankar Mishra (flute) and Anonymous (sitar)
Raag Mishra-Shivranjani (mixed raga)


Raag Hamsadhwani
Hamsadhwani has become very popular in the Hindustani tradition despite being a rather new import from South Indian classical music. It is a raga that fills you with positive energy and a sense of well-being. It is sung in the evening hours, after sunset and lends itself beautifully to a medium to lively tempo.

Scale: Hamsadhwani
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Hamsadhwani
(Ascent: S R G P N S' /Descent: S' N P G R S)


Pundit Ajoy Chakraborty
Raag Hamsadhwani


Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Hamsadhwani


Raag Madhmad-Sarang
Raag Madhmad-Sarang has a dreamy, sensual quality to it and is sung during the late morning hours, just before noon.

Scale: MadhmadSarang
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Madhmad Sarang
(Ascent: 'n S R m P n S' /Descent: S' n P m R m R 'n S)


Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Madhmad-Sarang


Pundit Jasraj
Raag Madhmad-Sarang